Trump returns from Tulsa with his tie undone
Trump returns from Tulsa rally looking shell-shocked

| It was supposed to be Trump's triumphant return to the campaign trail where he would soak up the adulation of a packed arena full of adoring, cheering fans. It would confirm the story being told by the White House — the coronavirus had been vanquished, the economy was recovering, and everything under the Decisive Leadership of Donald Trump was getting back to normal, just in time for the November election.

Instead, Trump's rally in Tulsa was an utter debacle. His campaign had been crowing about a million requests for tickets to the rally. An outdoor overflow area was set up for those who could not get into the 19,000+ seat arena, and Trump and his toady Pence would make separate speeches to them as a consolation prize. During the day, people lined up to be admitted to the arena and interviewed by every news crew in the country. Coronavirus? Not concerned. Here to support the president. And so on.

When it came time for the speeches, it was a different matter. The outdoor lot was empty except for a few people; the speeches there were quickly scrubbed. Inside the arena, two-thirds of the seats were empty, a stark contrast to other Trump rallies that we've all seen.

I have to say that nothing has lifted my spirits so much in the past 3½ years as hearing and seeing that Trump's rally was a bust. Backstage, Trump and his campaign looked out on a sea of empty blue seats (good choice of color, that!):

empty seats in the second tier
A Trump supporter social distancing in the upper tier

The president, who had been warned aboard Air Force One that the crowds at the arena were smaller than expected, was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium, according to four people familiar with what took place.

The president, who had been warned aboard Air Force One that the crowds at the arena were smaller than expected, was stunned, and he yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium, according to four people familiar with what took place.

The BOK Arena can seat about 19,200 people. The Tulsa fire marshall pegged the attendance at 6,200.  When they all crowded together in front of the stage and and behind Trump it looked impressive in a close-up camera shot, but whenever the camera panned the arena, the truth was irrefutable. It's comforting to know that at least 12,000 people in Oklahoma have more sense than the president.

Trump addressing Tulsa rally
Trump wanted a packed arena that looked like this

Although I didn't watch or listen, reports indicate that much of the nearly two hours explaining why he minced down the ramp at the West Point commencement like a hog on ice. He also was determined to show that yes he could indeed drink water from a glass using only one hand. And then there was the gob-smacking statement that he had told his administration not to do so much Covid-19 testing: "When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please."

We should note that when asked about this, people in his administration said he was joking (that's a really sick joke!). When asked directly, Trump said a lot of words, but none of the words resembled "No I didn't really tell them that."

When Trump arrived back at Andrews Air Force base, he descended the ramp with his shirt collar unbuttoned and his tie draped around his neck. His appearance and his expression said it all: I have seen the enemy and it is me.

For the first time, perhaps, in his life, Trump was not able to will his version of reality into existence. Instead, he got a peek at the "alternative facts." When a show on Broadway fills only 1/3 of the seats, it's about to close. Dare one hope?

Cartoonists skewer Trump's rally

Nick Anderson
Nick Anderson
Tom Toles
Tom Toles

Last updated on Jun 23, 2020

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